If you are reading this article, it’s probable that you have read dozens, if not hundreds of books and articles on spirituality. You may have studied numerous traditions, and sought the help of a master from any number of traditions. Or, maybe you’ve stuck with just one, diligently. The truth is that you have probably succumbed to the amazing maneuvers of your mystical ego, and fallen right into some of the spiritual pits you have been trying to avoid. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we get upset, judgmental, lazy, mean, or even angry. We forget so easily, that whatever we see ‘out there’ is just reflecting what’s ‘in here.’ Damn, it can be exasperating!
The ego is so tricky, it can even use your spiritual practice as a way to do you in. It can make you and your opinions seem ‘better’ than others, and anyone else’s wisdom, ‘inferior.’ It can turn the most hallowed practice into a convoluted mind-screw that has you thinking you are ascending, when really you are back-sliding faster than an ice-skater dancing on a banana peel.
So, while a simple list is just another device for the ego to make you think you know what’s up when there is still so much more to learn, here are a few ways you can tell when your ego is up to no good and taking charge in your life:
You haven’t forgotten how to be the observer. One of the fastest ways the ego works on you is to remove the gap between yourself and the experience of a thing, person or circumstance. As long as you have forgotten that everything you are experiencing is coming from your own very deep programming – your stuck. This can be really difficult when it feels like someone is hurting you, lying to you, cheating on you, shaming you, guilting you, etc. The truth is – at the most ‘non’ conscious levels, which really means the more conscious levels, you are creating the show. You’ve designed the costumes, made the props, and even chosen the set. You won’t see any difference in the characters of your play until you change the programming that is causing them to act out the scene of your life in front of you so expertly.
You see your current reality as the only reality when it really represents only a fragment of what is possible at any given moment in time. It feels as if you have to protect this very limited view of the world, because if you didn’t you would feel pain, and suffering, but ironically, this is exactly what the ego has you thinking, very purposefully – and it does cause suffering. It’s a classic reversal of truth, and you’ve bought in, hook line and sinker. As we re-integrate the shunned and shamed parts of ourselves, the part-conscious, un-whole pieces of the full pie of who we are, we get to integrate the ego so that it can no longer hide its sneaky tricks from us – namely of keeping us stuck in a very limited understanding of the world as a whole. Ego, in essence means fragmentation – we mistakenly believe that this is who we are. It is simply untrue.
Any time you are afraid, you can be sure the ego is having its way with your consciousness. This includes worry, fear, and anxiety. Fear is based in limitation. It is only seeing a small portion of the Truth. The future seems frightening to the ego, not because the outcome is unknown, so much, as the ego doesn’t have control of this domain. As long as the ego has you sweating the small stuff, or losing sleep over the big stuff, you aren’t able to expand your consciousness into love. Fear causes you to have to ‘prove’ yourself to others. It causes you to have to ‘be worthy’ through some action, when the truth is you already are, just as you are. It can turn even a loving relationship into ‘I’ versus ‘you’ In a heartbeat. Fear obliterates we.
Laziness, tiredness, and passivity are also tricks of the ego. If you are just too ‘tired’ to make a change you stay stuck in your current, more limited view of the world – your small piece of consciousness is running the show while you mistakenly believe it is a true representation of reality. “Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you are tired,” said Jules Renard. If you don’t exert any effort at all, you can be sure your spiritual path with stagnate.
Hiding your real feelings about a situation is often the work of the ego. If you can’t communicate honestly and openly, the ego gets to use all sorts of manipulative mind-games to keep you playing games with yourself and your partner, friend, boss, etc. You become stubborn, unwilling to change, and more interested in defending your unspoken truth, than expressing it. The ego will have you believe that telling the truth will humiliate you, but the old saying is true, ‘the Truth will set you free.’
Do you have other experiences of the ego taking over? Please share them with us.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.